Latching onto L.A. Times op-ed, Limbaugh sings "Barack, The Magic Negro"

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On the March 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, host Rush Limbaugh highlighted a March 19 Los Angeles Times op-ed that described Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as "running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination -- the 'Magic Negro'" -- a term used by critics of pop culture to describe certain benevolent African-American characters. Limbaugh stated: "The term 'Magic Negro' has been thrown into the political presidential race in the mix for 2008. And the term 'Magic Negro,' as applied to Barack Obama has been done by an L.A. Times columnist, David Ehrenstein." Limbaugh later asserted: "I'm going to keep referring to him as that because I want to make a bet that by the end of this week I will own that term," adding, "If I refer to Obama the rest of the day as the 'Magic Negro,' there will be a number of people in the drive-by media and on left-wing blogs who will credit me for coming up with it and ignore the L.A. Times did it, simply because they can't be critical of the L.A. Times, but they can, obviously, be critical of talk radio." Limbaugh continued to refer to Obama as the "Magic Negro" throughout the broadcast -- 27 times, to be exact -- and at one point sang "Barack, the Magic Negro" to the tune of "Puff, the Magic Dragon." Limbaugh defended his use of the song, stating, "Well, that's what we always do here. We do parodies and satires on the idiocy and phoniness of the left."

The Times op-ed, written by cultural critic David Ehrenstein, is headlined "Obama the 'Magic Negro.' " Ehrenstein invoked the cinematic trope of the "Magic Negro," which he defined as follows:

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia [].

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic -- embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is "Magic."

Ehrenstein concluded: "Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him."

Limbaugh criticized the op-ed as racist, claiming, "The left's saying all these things. Now he's the 'Magic Negro,' which is a convenient trick for the L.A. Times to blame a bunch of white people for being racist. OK. Let's find out who the -- just get an auction block and grab as many blacks as you want to put them up there and let's start the sales, L.A. Times, and let's see who it is that fetches the highest prices. Isn't that essentially the way they're approaching this?"

From the March 19 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, get this headline. Who wrote this? David Ehrenstein is his name. L.A. based, writes about Hollywood in politics. The headline of his column: "Obama the 'Magic Negro.' " Kid you not. "As every carbon-based life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama is running for president. Since making his announcement, there's been no end of commentary about him in all quarters -- musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first black president in the country. But it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office in the province of the popular imagination -- The Magic Negro. The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by a snarky 20th century sociologist to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. 'He has no past. He simply appears one day to help the white protagonist,' reads the description on Wikipedia" of the Magic Negro. Well, "he's there to assuage white guilt ... over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history while replacing stereotypes of a dangous [sic], dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sex[ual] congress holds no interest." The problem is that Ehrenright, Ehrenstein says -- he's not real. Al Sharpton's real, Snoop Dogg is real, but Barack Obama is not real. He's just there to assuage white guilt. In other words, the only reason Obama's anywhere is because whites are willing to support him because they feel so guilty over slavery. Now, before you reject this, Shelby Steele has written a great book about the whole concept of white guilt and how it is allowing our society to become more and more passive about any number of transgressions that the country has made from its inception.

Here's the close: "Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he becomes and seems, the more desirable he gets. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him." So those of you white people out there who are supporting Barack Obama, you are racists. That is the point that David Ehrenstein's made. So your attempt to assuage all of your white guilt by supporting Obama is worthless because you're just -- you're just exhibiting racism because you know he's not a real black. As [Sen. Joeeph R.] Biden [D-DE] said, he's clean and articulate. What else did he say? Clean -- yeah, clean, good looking, articulate, one of the first. But he's not real. This is -- this is more of the drivel and the bilge that we get from the drive-by media. In order to be a real black, you've got to be a [Rev. Al] Sharpton, you've got to be a Snoop Dogg, you've got to be a [rapper] Ludacris or something like that. Obama can't possibly fill this role because nobody knows anything about him, and we don't want to know anything about him. The only thing that matters is that he's black and he sounds good and it allows you white racists to assuage your guilt. Well, there is white racism out there. Much of it is on the left where the plantation mentality still resides.

Now, let me ask you a question. The term "Magic Negro" has been thrown into the political presidential race in the mix for 2008. And the term "Magic Negro," as applied to Barack Obama, has been done by an L.A. Times columnist, David Ehrenstein. What do you think? If I keep referring to Obama as the "Magic Negro" from this day on, I will eventually get the credit and/or heat for this. "Magic Negro." It is a term, and it's exactly as described here. Its purpose is to allow whites the guilt-free support. But in Barack's case, it's only 'cause he isn't a real black. And the L.A. Times, by the way, this is the not the first of these types of columns. The L.A. Times has been two or three columns like this, "is Barack Obama black enough?" and so forth. So there's a racist component out there on the editorial page of the L.A. Times that's obsessed with the race of Barack Obama and is with all leftists. While they are obsessed with race, accusing everybody else of being racist. We'll be right back.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: David Ehrenstein, the L.A. Times today, "Obama the 'Magic Negro.' " It's just infuriating. It is the left that continues to besmirch these people. It's the left that continues to question their so-called authenticity. These people are all human beings. Talk about Sharpton, Reverend [Jesse] Jackson, these people are all human beings. Now some of them are in the race business. I understand that. But look at who it is that keeps focusing on whether they're authentic enough. Authenticity based on skin color. Who is it doing this? It's the left. You know what, I got a suggestion for those of you at the L.A. Times. Let's cut to the chase. Go get an old-fashioned auction book and put it in the town square. Put it somewhere where it looks like it's real and just bring all these black people up there and auction them off and find out who it is that sells for the highest price. That's essentially what you're doing with all of these nonsensical categorizations -- Obama's not black enough, Obama doesn't have -- he's not down for the struggle, Obama doesn't have a legitimate civil rights -- civil right background. Obama's ears don't look like a black person's ears, they're too big, Obama doesn't sound like a black person, he's clean and articulate. The left's saying all these things. Now he's the "Magic Negro," which is a convenient trick for the L.A. Times to blame a bunch of white people for being racist. OK. Let's find out who the -- just get an auction block and grab as many blacks as you want to put them up there and let's start the sales, L.A. Times, and let's see who it is that fetches the highest prices. Isn't that essentially the way they're approaching this? These are commodities. These human beings are simply commodities, and they are there for some purpose other than their own human existence? You doubt the racism and the groupthink and the superiority of the leftists in this country, you'd be making a grave error.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: For example, you could take 10 seconds of me saying, "Obama is the Magic Negro" and make it look like I said it, rather than the fact that I'm repeating it from an L.A. Times column today. So the BBC is getting ready -- and we declined their permission to use this in that regard. We said, "If you want to do it just on Rush, and we'll send you a compendium of what's been said." "No, no, we're not interested in that." So they're doing a hit piece on talk-show hosts in America, the way they're talking about Obama, which is precisely my point. It's the L.A. Times, and it's Joe Biden, and it's all these other people who are raising questions about his authenticity. In fact, there was an honest story, but even it, and I forget where it was -- last week, might have been a blog, I forget. And this -- the person writing this story begrudgingly admitted that even Rush Limbaugh is saying there's something to this Obama guy and so he's not being overly critical of Obama, but then the snide follow-up was, "That's because so many people are excited about -- so many people on the left are being critical of Obama for one reason or another that Limbaugh is not being genuine in his respect that he's showing for Obama." It's got -- of course, it can't be, obviously. I mean, things are 180 degrees out of phase here. The L.A. Times today referring to Obama as the "Magic Negro" -- and I'm going to keep referring to him as that because I wanna make a bet that by the end of this week I will own that term. By the -- by the end of the day. [laughs] By the end -- the broadcast engineer shouting at me over the IFP -- people -- what is an IFP? It's an intercom, it's just a -- it's a private -- you can't hear 'em there, I have people chattering at me all the time. And I don't know what IFP stands for, it's a television term, but we use one here, it's a closed-circuit loop. At any rate, he's shouting at me, "You'll own it by the end of the day if you keep referring to Barack Obama as the 'Magic Negro.' " We'll give it a shot, we'll see what happens with this.

[...]

LIMBAUGH Well, that's -- no, no, see -- glad you asked that. Because my point is that the L.A. Times raised it. The L.A. Times columnist, Ehrenstein, writes about it, and I simply said: If I refer to Obama the rest of the day as the "Magic Negro," there will be a number of people in the drive-by media and on left-wing blogs who will credit me for coming up with it and ignore the L.A. Times did it, simply because they can't be critical of the L.A. Times but they can, obviously, be critical of talk radio. It's such -- something beneath us all.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: We've been discussing today -- I just want to touch on this briefly if you missed it. We've been discussing today a column by a guy named Paul Ehrenstein [sic] in the Los Angeles Times entitled "The Magic Negro." And it's all about how white people supporting Barack Obama can't possibly be doing it on the basis of substance because there's nothing about him. He's an empty vessel. Nobody knows enough about him to support him on the basis of policy or substance. And so the white people who are supporting Barack Obama, the "Magic Negro," are doing so precisely because he's the "Magic Negro." By supporting him, white people get to assuage their guilt over this nation's history with slavery and the Confederacy and all this other tripe. And this has led to a number of points being made by me, brilliantly so on this program, that it is the left in this country that looks at people and sees their skin color or their gender or their sexual orientation as the first things they notice about them. The whole point of this piece is to accuse white people of being racist. They don't really like Obama, they don't really like black people, they feel guilty over what this country's done to black people, so they support Barack because he's the quote-unquote "Magic Negro."

This is the same newspaper that has run a couple of stories on "is Barack Obama is black enough?" This prompted a drive-by caller, Dan from Fruitport, Michigan, to suggest that the Democrats, since they feel so bad about this, should offer black credits to someone like Obama who is not black enough in the eyes of the L.A. Times and other liberals. So he could go out there and buy black credits, so he could -- like Gore, you know, offsets his carbon use with carbon credits, Obama the "Magic Negro" could offset his lack of blackness with black credits. Then say he could down for the struggle [sic] and that he has roots in the civil rights movement. Reverend Sharpton's upset, you know, "Obama, where were you when we marched for justice in Selma?" and so forth. So clearly, it is a -- I mean, it's just remarkable to continue to witness the actual racism that exists on the left, using the term "Magic Negro" to apply to you white people who are supporting Obama. Singing a song in my head here during the break: "Barack, the Magic Negro, doo doo do doo."

Uh-oh, Dawn's shaking her head on that. What are you saying, if I do that, I then will own the term, because I will be taking it above and beyond how it's been used? Well, that's what we always do here. We do parodies and satires on the idiocy and the phoniness of the left. We could throw in -- yeah, we could put an L.A. Times lyric in there to make, you know, make it obvious who it was who actually used the term. I mean, don't start telling me to shy away from this stuff. That's why I'm where I am, that's why I'm who I am, and for which I make no apologies. I'm very proud and happy.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity, Elections
Network/Outlet
Los Angeles Times
Person
Rush Limbaugh
Show/Publication
The Rush Limbaugh Show
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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